Cheater: Rebuttal to Rowland’s ‘Elon Musk- an enemy of the working class’


Steve Jurvetson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Opinions on Elon Musk vary widely, from technological and business genius to “enemy of the working class” and anywhere in between.

Blake Cheater, Lead Copy Editor

Gracie Rowland’s claim that Elon Musk is an “enemy of the working class” is bold, but also completely false. The article, written with much passion and gusto, largely fails to use basic logic and factual evidence to back up its claims. Several big words are thrown in to distract you from this lack of real substance, which, in my opinion, is genius. 

Don’t get me wrong – Elon Musk is no angel. Rowland brings up a few instances of his mistakes in the past, but for the most part, he’s corrected them. I don’t agree with all of the choices he makes, but I also think calling Musk an enemy of the working class is uninformed and untrue. 

Rowland’s main paragraph describes how Musk’s fortune directly harms billions of people without a shred of evidence. Most of his net worth comes from his shares in his various companies, the most notable being Tesla (he owns 21%). 

So how does holding a rather significant stake in your own company directly hurt billions (with a “b”) of people? I’m confused. I think if his wealth really were harming billions of workers, we would be able to clearly see that. 

Rowland then makes the claim that Musk’s fortune came from an emerald mine his father bought. Musk’s parents divorced when he was eight, and he left to study in Canada after high school. His mother often talks about how they had to repeatedly eat peanut butter sandwiches as they couldn’t afford anything better. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he found himself with around $100,000 worth of debt. 

While it’s true his father invested $28,000 in Musk and his brother’s startup, Zip2, it is misleading to say his entire fortune came from his father. In addition, Forbes gave Musk a self-made score of 8 out of 10. 

Next, the article discusses Tesla’s problem with work-related injuries. This part is actually factual. Wait, no, it was factual. 

Tesla’s Fremont factory had 8.8 non-fatal injuries for every 100 workers, higher than the national average of 6.7 –  a statistic from 2017. Musk took note and promised change. As of last year, the Fremont factory’s injury rate was down more than 50% and is now 5% better than the industry average. It sounds like Musk might actually be a friend of the workers, but I’ll let the data speak for itself.

However, there is a shred of truth in that paragraph. Rowland’s claim that Musk tried to suppress unionizing is kind of true – there have been reports of anti-union activity by management in some of his factories and a court ruled one of his tweets as threatening. Was a tweet deemed slightly anti-union? Yes. Is he an enemy of the proletariat? No. 

The next paragraph calls Musk a hypocrite and the definition of “corporate” as he does not support taxing the rich. I could not find his stance on taxing the rich anywhere online, so I’ll give Rowland the benefit of the doubt, even though she fails to cite her source.

To be fair, Musk did move from California to Texas due to California’s high income tax and significant regulations. However, I do not see how calling out a platform that restricts retail traders’ communication coincides with being a hypocrite. It seems like a stretch to me.

Next, the article says Elon Musk is automatically unethical because he is a billionaire. OK? Is it because he won’t give away all the money he’s worked so hard to make? I agree that he could be a bit more philanthropic with his fortune but calling him unethical because he’s rich is a weak argument. 

Another sentence in the same paragraph talks about how his money skews global wealth distribution. I think that’s the definition of being a billionaire?

The article then says Musk’s fortune was made from lies and immoral actions. That doesn’t make any sense. I’m pretty sure he made his money from selling PayPal in the ’90s, investing and then becoming the chairman of Tesla, and starting SpaceX. Claiming that he doesn’t deserve the money he has is immoral in and of itself. 

He worked hard for his wealth, spending 120 hours a week dedicated to building up his businesses. I agree to an extent that Musk could be more giving with his wealth, but most of his businesses are dedicated to improving the planet. 

The last large paragraph describing how Musk puts profit before the environment is filled with misinformation. Musk has stated he is in support of a carbon tax and said SpaceX will pay it. He even proposed his idea for a carbon tax to the Biden Administration, who shot it down.  

Lastly, the article ends with, “he should be taxed higher immediately.” Doing so would be the equivalent of putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound. Shrinking the growing divide between rich and poor is more complicated than simply taxing the rich, and there are more pressing issues

With all of that said, I think Elon Musk has made some big mistakes – but I also think calling him an enemy of the working class is a dead wrong and ignorant claim. He has some work to do and could use his money for good if he chooses to, which I hope he does, but he is far from the robber baron Rowland’s article paints him to be.